For the eighth time in school history, the New Palestine basketball team is playing on regional Saturday. The Dragons earned a berth in the prestigious Southport regional with convincing victories over Greenfield-Central, Connersville and Mt. Vernon in the sectional.
The Dragons open against a red-hot Avon team that has won seven straight games and beat both Plainfield and Mooresville to claim the Brownsburg sectional last week. Both teams feature multiple double-figure threats and balanced scoring, as well as strong defense.
NP won its sectional title with strong starts – outscoring teams 38-11 in the opening quarter – and defense. NP has held four straight foes in the 30s and 40s.
The winner faces either Ben Davis or No. 2 Lawrence Central in the regional championship game. NP is seeking its first regional title game trip since 1989.
Dragons (17-8) vs. Avon (15-9), 10 a.m.
Ben Davis (17-7) vs. No. 2 Lawrence Central (22-3), 11:30 a.m.
Regional championship, 8 p.m.
Site: Southport Fieldhouse, Indianapolis (directions)
Admission: $7/single-session, $10/all-session
Winner advances to: March 16 semistate at Washington or Seymour
Broadcast (all tournament games):
- New Pal Radio (link to listen or click the embedded link below. Coverage begins at 8:25 a.m. with a 90-minute pregame show).
SETTING THE SCENE
The Dragons dominated their three sectional foes, with convincing victories over Greenfield-Central (60-45), Connersville (56-47) and Mt. Vernon (61-43). The Dragons won their eighth sectional title and first since 2012.
The Dragons are seeking the first regional title in school history, and the first regional-game win since beating Greensburg in the 1989 New Castle regional.
Today will be the first-ever meeting between NP and Avon. The Dragons have also never met either Ben Davis or Lawrence Central.
Head coach Trent Whitaker cut down the nets as a head coach for the first time last week, but it was his fourth title as a part of the Dragons’ coaching staff. He was an assistant coach on the 2009, 2011 and 2012 sectional title teams.
NP, the Hoosier Heritage Conference runner-up, is one of two HHC teams still in action. HHC champion Delta is competing in the 3A Marion regional.
The Dragons had outstanding balance in their sectional victories. Four different players led NP in scoring in the three games. Maximus Gizzi and Dawson Eastes led a balanced effort with 11 points each in the sectional-opening win over Greenfield-Central. Matthew True scored 17 points to lead three Dragons in double-figures in the win over Connersville, with Dylan Romine hitting a key 3-pointer in the fourth quarter en route to 15 points. Gizzi scored 13. Against Mt. Vernon, Romine scored a career-high 23 points – including three straight 3-pointers to key a 15-0 second-half run, while Eastes had 19 points and nine boards.
NP held at least a 20-point lead in each sectional game, leading Greenfield-Central by 28 (55-27), Connersville by 22 (32-10) and Mt. Vernon by 20 (55-35).
The Dragons got off to strong defensive starts in each game, outscoring their foes in the first quarter 38-11. NP led Connersville 18-2 after one – starting the game with runs of 16-0 and 23-2. The Dragons also led Greenfield-Central 12-4 and Mt. Vernon 8-5 after eight minutes.
Romine tallied 38 points the last two games of the sectional, hitting 11-13 from the floor (84.1 percent) and 7-7 from 3-point range.
NP has held four consecutive foes under 50 points. NP has held nine of its last 12 opponents to 50 points or less, going 9-3 in that stretch.
Gizzi (15.6) and True (15.1) lead the Dragons in scoring. Gizzi also leads in assists (4.4) and led the HHC in the regular season. True led the HHC in 3-point shooting in the regular season and currently hits 44 percent. Romine is hitting 47 percent from deep. Eastes (6.6) leads the team in rebounding.
Avon is playing in its third regional, having also won sectional titles in 1978 and 2002. Mason Miller scored 21 points – including 7-11 from 3-point range – to lead Avon to a 56-34 title-game win over Mooresville at Brownsburg. Avon advanced with a 58-56 OT win over Plainfield in the semis, in which Wendell DeMyers hit a half-court shot at the end of regulation. DeMyers, Miller and Jayden Brewer scored 12 each in that game.
Ben Davis used a big fourth quarter to beat Decatur Central 69-51 in the title game at Perry Meridian. Jalen Windham scored 18 points to lead four Giants in double-figures. BD advanced to the final with a 52-50 victory over Pike. BD is in its 19th regional with eight titles, including six from 1992-98. The Giants won state titles in 1995, 1996 and 2017.
Lawrence Central posted an impressive 83-51 win over North Central Friday, then beat defending state champ Warren Central 67-52 in the title game at Lawrence North. Nijel Pack scored 25 points – including five 3-pointers – while Dre Davis scored 16 and Jake LaRavia 12 for LC in the title game. LC enters with the state’s No. 2 ranking in the AP poll and No. 1 in the Sagarin ratings. LC has won three regional titles, including the first year after its consolidation in 1942, a team that featured future NCAA champion coach Norm Sloan as a sophomore guard. LC also won regional titles in 1977 and 1998.